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New market, same vision for a better tomorrow

Published August 30, 2019

Additional Equity in Coding article:

When entrepreneur Sharmi Albrechtsen appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank seeking investors for her retail product SmartGurlz™, a codable robot for girls, the sharks all agreed on one thing: the idea was inspired.

SmartGurlz was born from Albrechtsen’s desire to help her own daughter appreciate math. Wondering what would capture the young girl’s interest, Albrechtsen strolled into her daughter’s bedroom. That is when her eyes fell on her doll collection. Could there be a way to connect the STEM aspects of robotics with dolls?

The scope of the idea grew, and Albrechtsen realized she had not only a product that could find a market but one that could make a valuable difference in the world by addressing a pressing social issue – the challenge of enticing females onto the STEM career path. The clever doll concept, the self-balancing algorithm on the programmable scooters they ride, and the ingenious coding interface were selling points, but the purpose elevated the idea.

In Albrechtsen’s words, “In the US, we have a major shortage of engineers and a male-dominated workforce. How do we encourage more girls in science, technology, engineering, and math?” The answer: reach out to them where they play.

Her appearance on the TV show was a success. She ended up making a licensing deal with shark Daymond John. But that was only a beginning. Her company went on to win Best Startup at the IEEE Women in Engineering Leadership Conference. And now, with a revamp, the product is making its debut in the education market with the support of Pitsco Education.

Smart Buddies includes an expanded line of dolls to cover a broader set of demographics (including boys), making it a superb coding solution for any STEM classroom. Though the concept has been expanded, the original brilliant inspiration remains.

“You don’t have to wait until they get to the intermediate grades to start teaching science because they’re very capable, science is very engaging, and it’s high interest for the little ones. It’s fun, and they can do it!”

– Shakeatha Butler, elementary science director, Duval County, Florida

We enable young learners to develop the mind-set, skill set, and tool set needed for future success.

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